KIPP Charlotte: Using Interim Assessment Data to Power Differentiated Instruction

KIPP Charlotte:  Using Interim Assessment Data to Power Differentiated InstructionKIPP Charlotte is part of the national KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) network of tuition-free, open-enrollment charter schools that bring a college preparatory focus in underserved communities. The school combines innovative teaching and learning techniques, consistent support for teachers, and personalized student goal setting to provide its grade 5–8 students with an exceptional educational experience.

The school expects every student to take a proactive role in his or her own academic success. Students can call teachers for homework help and receive regular 1-on-1 sessions with teachers. Additionally, KIPP Charlotte uses  Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®) interim assessments to help gauge student growth, identify learning needs, and inform instruction.

Like many schools, KIPP Charlotte identified summer learning loss among many of their students, reflected in fall scores that were lower than students’ scores during the previous spring. To overcome this summer learning loss, Alexandra McPherson, who served as Director of Data Management at KIPP Charlotte, conceived a student-motivation program called Keep Up, Step Up that uses student growth data from MAP interim assessments to establish both typical growth projections and more challenging Step Up goals. As McPherson says, they wanted their kids to start the school year ‘with a sense of urgency.’

The two goals of Keep Up, Step Up for students:

  1. Making expected academic growth (keeping up their current percentile status)
  2. Exceeding that expected growth (using self-motivation to achieve greater-than-typical growth for the year)

McPherson explains how the program worked:

Step Up goals were established by placing the students in tiers, depending on their quartile. So we would take the typical growth projection, and then if they were in the bottom quartile we tripled that for the year to get their Step Up goal. For the top quartile of students, I would multiply their typical growth projections by 1.75 to get their Step Up goal.

We really did a lot to build student, parent, and staff investment around giving the test. We prepped teachers on what type of messaging they should be giving their students, helped students to become invested, excited, and prepared for what to expect, and held multiple goal setting conferences with students before testing in order to discuss expectations for individual growth goals.

In mid-2013, KIPP Charlotte began to think about how they might expand the program to use the MAP interim assessment data to provide differentiated instruction to ensure students make significant academic gains. They decided on ten sessions of Saturday school for every student. Based on their MAP score on a particular strand, students were divided into groups and received 90 minutes of reading instruction, then were reshuffled for another 90 minutes of math. The emphasis was on foundational skills: vocabulary for reading, and numbers and operations for mathematics.

As McPherson explains:

We grouped students by their RIT scores on those particular areas, and then we came up with materials, activities, and lessons for students to do in each of those groups based on their scores and what they were ready to learn next. We had a lot of success. Students responded very well.

The growth really exploded from the winter to the spring, and I’m sure it was not solely because of this differentiated time—our teachers work really, really hard day to day in the classrooms. But it was a real eye opener. It really got everybody invested in making sure our kids were getting what they needed.

The differentiated learning program at KIPP Charlotte continues to evolve and improve each year, and the MAP interim assessment data plays a crucial role. It helps pinpoint what a student’s level is and can change the way you think about a student’s present level of performance. It’s not pass or fail, but rather a measure of progress. As McPherson summarizes:

MAP helps us have more of a growth mindset about our students, and not so much that fixed on-grade level, off-grade level, pass, fail mindset. Students have different strengths and weaknesses, and we need to really zero in on exactly what students are ready to learn next.

Click here to see the complete KIPP Charlotte case study.